Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It is not the critic who counts

Rod reports that he is "almost off now..." and I continue to follow the news from DR Congo. Yesterday I read a piece in Slate by Michael J. Kavanagh, that is particularly ungracious about Alan Doss.
Although it is the biggest U.N. mission in the world, the MONUC mission in Congo has never received the full troop allotment it has asked for, and the civilian section is chronically and disastrously understaffed.

Ironically, the current head of the U.N. mission in Congo, Alan Doss, was hired to wind down the $1 billion-a-year operation. Instead, he's asking for reinforcements. To put it kindly, Doss' first 11 months in Congo have been inauspicious. He has stood by as massacres have taken place in Bas Congo and Ituri provinces and now he has permitted a rebel movement backed by a foreign country to essentially take over North Kivu.

Doss' staff is near mutiny. His force commander resigned after one month for "personal reasons," which U.N. insiders tell me was code for We're heading for disaster, and I don't want to be at the helm. People who know much more about Congo than Doss say he has absolutely no vision for the east.

It took until Sept. 19 for Doss to request more peacekeepers for North Kivu, even though there had been cease-fire violations for months and three weeks of outright war. Now, nearly two months later, it looks as if the United Nations may be thinking about possibly considering sending reinforcements to North Kivu. Perhaps. If the United Nations says yes, the deployment will take two or three months, which raises the question of what 1 million displaced people will eat in the meantime, since the current insecurity prevents them from harvesting their fields.

This reads like character assassination to me. If MONUC is disastrously underarmed and undermanned and Doss was hired to wind it down, then requesting reinforcements looks like an act of courage to me. To claim "he has stood by as massacres have taken place" is extraordinarily pejorative language. DR Congo is bigger than Western Europe. There are nearly twice as many officers in the London's Metropolitan Police as there are UN troops in the whole Godforsaken country. How is he supposed to cover the ground?

Finally which is braver, sticking it out or resigning "after one month for personal reasons, ..... code for We're heading for disaster, and I don't want to be at the helm".

Not for the first time, I find myself quoting Teddy Roosevelt:
It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.

Alan Doss of Cardiff: A Welsh Born Icon.

1 comment:

John said...

I find myself quoting Kipling's "If".
Always a fine yardstick in my experience.